While Bali seamlessly resonates with beaches and the promised land of worship, it is also the celestial country of Family Temples. A concept I was introduced to during my recent trip to Bali. While driving or walking on the streets, I noticed that each house in Bali has its very own family temple. Least to say, these are just as magnanimous as any other mainstream temple you will ever visit. Laced with stunning architecture, the exteriors of these temples are adorned with ornamentation which is easy to confuse with a prevailing place of worship. The walls are painted in sparkling colours, while the roofs are decorated with captivating figures. All things considered, these temples are so beautiful that you are instantly engulfed in a sprightly urge to walk right in, to explore more.
These family temples are very important to the locals. Not only, do they worship Gods here, but also, their ancestors. The reason why they do not allow strangers inside. However, I did get a chance to speak to a local who agreed to talk about the significance of his personal place of worship. He unfolded the importance of a Balinese Family Temple that emphasises on lauding ancestors and God almighty. I learnt that Family Temples are generally built in the Kaja-Kangin corner of the house. Meaning the Eastern direction facing the sacred Volcano of Gunung Agung. Subjective to the lower and the higher caste system, the family temples are either called Pemerajan or Sanggah. Whichever of the two given alternatives is the case, the temple is always stationed outside, in the quiet corner of the house compound.
For the most part, a Balinese Family Temple is made from bricks and are upraised higher than the rest of the house. Inside these temples, a family prays to the sacred shrines of Ida Sang Hyang Widhi and Bhatara Gods along with immortalised Leluhurs, the Balinese translation of ancestors. The family offers daily prayers and offerings to these shrines. In fact, irrespective of the size of the family, the temples are always kept in good condition. Each Family Temple in Bali harbours three enforced shrines, that is to say, Pelinggih Ratu Ngurah, Kemulan Taksu, and Pelinggih Taksu. Kemulan Taksu being the paramount one. This shrine is covered with a roof and portrays separate sections. These sections are dedicated to the Hindu triad of Lord Vishnu (on the left), Shiva (in the centre) and Brahma (on the right). Kemulan Taksu is also referred to as the shrine of deified ancestors.
Likewise, Pelinggih Ratu Ngurah is dedicated to Ratu Ngurah, the amanuensis of the Bhatara. He watches over human conduct. This roofed shrine comes with a single section. The Pelinggih Taksu, on the other hand, is yet another single section shrine dedicated to Taksu, the God of talent. Balinese people believe that their success or failure depends on the mercy of the Lord Taksu.
The ceremonies executed inside a Balinese Family Temple are referred to as Upacara Yadnya or sacred sacrifice. Yadnya takes after the Sanskrit word, Yagya meaning worship. Altogether, there are five different types of Yadnya performed in Bali. These are namely Yadnya God (performed before Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa), Rsi Yadnya (performed to institute religious teachings), Pitra Yadnya (performed for ancestral spirits), Manusa Yadnya (performed for humanity), and Bhuta Yadnya (performed to counterbalance the forces of nature). Everyday Yadnya’s are called Yadnya Sesa or Mesaiban.
Other ceremonies that take place inside a family temple are Upacara Yadnya for weddings, temple anniversaries, exorcism etc. However, imperative offerings are performed on special days of Full and New Moon. Additionally, a holy shrine, Penunggun Karang, is placed outside the temple, for the spirits to guard the family, the family temple, and the home. To enter the family compound or the family temple, you must first seek the permission of the house owner. Otherwise, you may still take delight in observing and admiring the stunning architecture from outside. I return mesmerised and beholden, so will you.